Industry News

Google Marketing Next 2017: Breaking Down Barriers

During today’s Livestream from their annual marketing summit, which was renamed “Google Marketing Next” for 2017, Google announced several new advertising features, initiatives, and integrations. Google executives discussed several expected topics, including audience targeting/segmentation, measurement, and the full rollout of the new AdWords interface many marketers have already had the opportunity to try.

However, from iProspect’s perspective, this morning’s most exciting announcements weren’t focused on new features. The real game-changing news is that Google is breaking down barriers between their own products, enabling similar functionality across multiple tools and platforms. Today’s empowered customers already move seamlessly between devices, touchpoints, and brand interactions; and this alignment of features will allow marketers to create customer experiences that mirror their behavior.  Moving forward, marketers will be able to plan and execute in a more seamless, holistic fashion across digital channels and offline touchpoints within the Google ecosystem.

Audience: Reaching the right person at the right time across channels

Audience targeting wasn’t the first topic Google discussed, but we know from experience that it is the single most effective way to improve campaign performance and efficiency, so we’re constantly asking Google for more audience segmentation features. At first glance, it might appear Google didn’t announce much that is different from current functionality (as the targeting options mentioned have been available to advertisers for several years), but there is in fact a major change: more of these options are now available cross-channel.

  • Search and Shopping ads can now leverage in-market audience targeting – an audience segment that was previously only available on the Google Display Network. This feature allows advertisers to prioritize budget, customize creative, and bid aggressively for individual searchers whose past activity and real-time behavior indicate they are actively researching or comparing products. Brands utilizing this targeting as a signal in search will be able to effectively connect with individuals at the key moment before a purchase decision is made.
  • YouTube and Gmail ads can now leverage search data and in-maps location data as additional keys that identify the ideal time when an individual is most receptive to an advertising message. These targeting segments based on cross-channel data are called “Consumer Patterns” and “Life Events” and allow marketers to leverage Google’s wealth of audience data to place their message in front of individuals at exactly the moment when this message will resonate most.

These new audience targeting segments take advantage of Google’s incredibly advanced machine learning, and both are now available for advertisers to begin utilizing. Expect Google’s audience targeting across channels to become even more aligned in the future as they continue to leverage their cross-property strengths to bring more functionality to advertisers.

Measurement: Streamlined attribution, new unique reach metric

Another year, another attribution solution…but marketers who don’t pay close attention to Google’s latest attribution announcements will miss a very, very critical development. The new Google Attribution product is based on an individual’s Google ID instead of a pixel, which is more revolutionary than it may first appear. By focusing on the Google ID, data breakage due to cross-device movement and online-to-offline conversions is drastically reduced, and the reliance on last click/last touch measurement is finally removed. This tool integrates seamlessly with Google products, allows marketers to push attribution models directly into AdWords to make them effortlessly actionable, and is available to all advertisers at no cost.  The enterprise version, Google Attribution 360, is even more robust, allowing advertisers to import data from TV campaigns and other third-party sources.

Another measurement feature announced today offers marketers a useful new data point for campaign optimization that can be analyzed and implemented quickly. “Unique Reach” is a new metric for display and video ads that surfaces the number of unique individuals a campaign reached and the number of ads they were exposed to. This data is also based on Google ID information, so it doesn’t double-count individuals who saw a brand’s ad across multiple devices. By analyzing this data and incorporating it into budget allocation strategies, marketers will be able to effectively shift their focus between reiterating a message by reaching an individual multiple times or focusing on incrementality by shifting budget to campaigns with a higher unique reach.  Unique reach is available in AdWords today, and will be available in DoubleClick within the next few months.

Online to Offline: Simplified implementation, Display & YouTube integration

Retail is a very important vertical for Google, and thus the measurement of the effect digital marketing has on in-store purchases is a critical focus – important enough to get its own separate section in the Livestream. Google’s announcements centered around two concepts: simplifying the integration of in-store conversion data into digital campaigns and porting effective location-specific features from search ads into YouTube and Display advertising.

  • Store Sales Direct, which is launching in twelve countries, allows brands to directly upload store data into AdWords without requiring the brand to have a third party go-between (which the previous solution required). In this new solution, Google handles any third-party data integrations and does all the heavy lifting. 
  • Google is adding new local ad formats to Display ads and YouTube ads. In addition, Store Visits data and Location Extensions are also coming to YouTube TrueView ads, continuing the trend of porting the effective features of one channel over to other channels to provide both advertisers and users with a more consistent experience.

Productivity: New UI, AMP banners, New DBM Planning

Google announced three upcoming initiatives focused on empowering marketers to do more in less time. The new streamlined AdWords interface, available to select advertisers now, will be rolled out to all users by the end of the year. In addition to a ground-up focus on solving business challenges and optimizing toward overall goals, this updated UI includes a seamless integration with Optimize, Google’s solution for A/B and multivariate testing.

Also coming is a deep integration with Google Surveys 360, a powerful but under-utilized tool that allows brands to poll an audience and measure data points that can be difficult to collect as metrics, such as brand sentiment and likelihood to purchase. We’re most excited about the ability to deploy these surveys to specific remarketing audiences defined by search activity. The ability to field these surveys specifically to search audiences will allow our teams to measure the outcomes of strategic segmentation strategies beyond just interactions and conversions.  This new remarketing audience integration with Surveys 360 launches today in the US and Canada.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) display ads are another welcome new feature. Beginning today, when Google serves an ad on an AMP site, the vast majority will now automatically convert the ad into AMP format. (It’s worth noting that Google has done extensive testing to confirm that this conversion does not break any advertiser tracking.) The AMP version of these ads load up to five seconds faster than the non-AMP version, ensuring users have a fast and seamless experience.  This feature is a nice nod to the value of user experience, and a great proactive move against one of the major triggers that leads consumers to download ad-blocking software. 

In addition, Google announced that search landing pages which are AMP optimized will load nearly instantly.  Google also debuted a new AdWords landing page tester, which advertisers can use to quickly understand the relevance, load speed, and quality of each page.  We know that it’s critical for a landing page to fulfill the promise made by an ad, and these new features give marketers more insight into and control of the landing page experiences.

Finally, Google announced a robust new planning tool for DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) that incorporates inventory information and audience behaviors to make recommendations and provide estimates on traffic, cost, and reach. Marketers will be able to leverage this streamlined planning tool when it launches in July.

Assistant

Finally, Google provided some initial insight about its plans for Assistant, although brands eager to hear in-depth details will have to wait a while longer. In the Livestream, Google focused on how it plans to utilize Assistant’s AI functionality within Google apps and platforms to finally bridge the gap between marketing and voice interaction. Google began testing these waters earlier this year by integrating Google Express into Google Assistant (and by extension, Google Home), and advertisers can expect several more such integrations before the end of the year.  Smart brands will focus on optimizing their local inventory data in preparation for the next iteration of conversational commerce. 

One thing is clear—Google’s focus is on a seamless, cross-device experience, allowing users to move across their phone, computer, smarthome hub, and other devices, with Assistant as the connection between each.

Conclusion

Today’s announcements about measurement (seamless in-store integration, surveys, a more integrated attribution offering) were welcome, but not surprising – the more tools Google gives advertisers to measure success, the more they’re willing to invest. Other features reflected two main themes: The Expectation Economy – in which consumers are more empowered than ever – and machine learning, which Google utilizes extensively behind the scenes and which they are now beginning to open up to marketers. As Sundar Pichai stated last week at Google I/O, we are moving from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world, and it’s wonderful to see the tools Google provides to advertisers directly reflect this shift. 

The most eagerly welcomed announcement, however, was that Google is breaking down barriers between marketing channels and empowering advertisers to apply tools that drive success within one channel directly to other channels. The more Google continues to align feature sets across its channels, tools, and platforms, the more effective digital marketers’ strategies will become.